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8 Steps to Building Your Blog Into a Community

This is a guest contribution from Jonathan Goodman.

There are other people blogging about the same subject as you, maybe better or maybe worse—but, as you probably have figured out by now, content is no longer king; context is.

Getting repeat readers who become brand ambassadors for you is pertinent to the success of your blog. So is getting repeat customers. It allows you to focus on what you do best: make great art—writing material that people enjoy reading and writing material that will help thousands of people around the world.

All successful blogs are communities and if you want to turn your blog into something special, something that will grant you financial freedom, and something that will help countless people then you must create a community out of your blog.

A community around your blog

There are a lot of great blog posts about creating communities, but this one is different. The 8 steps I describe below is the exact process I used to build the world’s biggest collaborative blog for personal trainers, in less than 2 years, with no connections and no technological acumen.

Whether you’re starting anew or you already have a blog you can apply these steps, in any order, to build your audience, network, and repeat readership.

Step 1 – The Idea

Photo credit: María Magnética from Flickr

All good blogs are based on a powerful idea that fulfils or hits on a need. Perhaps there’s a knowledge gap in your industry or, in the case of the personal training industry, there was a lot of information but it was all boring text-book material.

The gap I filled was teaching personal trainers the soft side of training but adding in jokes, usually about how much I hate that stupid useless green bird in Angry Birds. Seriously, let’s talk about that bird for a minute. Anybody else hate that thing? He adds an element of difficulty into the game that I don’t appreciate. I just want to smash pigs and move onto the next level.

But I digress.

Build your community on a single powerful idea. Understanding the blogging medium requires a lighter and more approachable tone — don’t be afraid to approach your topic with humor and wit.

Most of all don’t ever hide your personality. People buy into what you do because of the 1% that makes you different, not the 99% that makes you the same.

I should also note that once your blog grows, it might grow out of your initial idea so you need to flexible about its evolution. An experts power doesn’t come from knowing, it comes from knowing where to find and that’s why step 2 is so important.

Step 2 – The Sea Lion System to Build Your Network

I’m reminded of a family trip I took to Alaska. We found ourselves watching a group of whales bubble feed — it was spectacular — but something grabbed my attention and it wasn’t the whales; it was the Sea Lions.

You see, Sea Lions wait patiently on the outside of the vicious bubble feed and catch the fish that the whales fling out. Sea Lions are opportunistic.Sea Lion

You must be the Sea Lion

In any industry there are existing influencers who I’m sure you can name off of the top of your head right now. These people have social media pages and blogs. Existing on those pages are what I call connectors.

When an industry influencer posts a status update or a new blog, there’s a flurry of activity. Instead of trying to get the influencers attention, be the Sea Lion and find the people who are avidly liking, commenting, and sharing the influencer’s material — there are your connectors.

Over a short period of time, you’ll notice the same names keep appearing. Likely they have blogs and even if they don’t they will probably be open to network. Read and comment on a blog post or two of theirs and send them an email saying hi. Or, if they don’t have a blog, send them a message saying that you would like to connect.

Step 3 – Implicit Understanding, Explicit Meaning

Choosing a name for your blog or community is an important step. Even if you blog in your basement at night, the name should make it sound like it’s bigger than you. You’re building a community here that others will want to be a part of.

In addition, you want to have the option to sell the blog later on. A community blog is valuable and it’s a nice option to have. JonsAwesomePersonalTrainerBlog.com isn’t going to be easy to sell but the Personal Trainer Development Center is.

Lastly, your blog name should be something that is intuitively meaningful for your audience. It should also be something that will make them feel like they look good by passing it on to colleagues, friends, or family members.

Step 4 – Contact potential contributors

Now the fun part starts.

There are 3 different types of contributors that you want for your community blog.

1. Camp Busters

In every industry there are established camps that you should be able to identify. There’s probably an influencer at the top and varying levels of followers underneath him or her. Ideally, you want to break into every camp that serves your industry. To do so, try to find somebody that’s well connected in that camp and is currently lower down in the pecking order.

2. Up and comers

In step 2 you identified your connectors. Many of these people will be up and coming bloggers. Have a read through their material and note which ones are good. In addition, look to contact the ones who are hustling the hardest and get them on board with your community.

3. Established authorities

There’s a Catch-22 here. You need readers to attract established authorities to write for you, but you can’t get readers without established authorities right?

Here’s one approach: When you sign up for my free content course, you also get to download my free Diamond in the Rough System Ebook. This is how to use Twitter to get the attention of the people behind the people.

When contacting authorities you probably can’t pay them but you can offer them value. Usually these people have years of archived high-quality material on their blogs. Sell them on your powerful idea in step 1 and ask them to come on board as a “coach” or “advisor” for your community. Assure them it is 0 work on their part.

Tell them that you want to go through their entire archive and will send them a list of all the material that you would like the opportunity to use. You will re-edit and re-format the material so that it’s different enough that Google doesn’t view it as duplicate material and post it to your blog attributing it to them as the sole author with links back to their site.

Some people may say no, but many will agree.

Having established authorities on your site does two things: It establishes credibility for other contributors and you gain the audience of the authority.

Step 5 – Planes, trains, and automobiles

As personal as social networks are (sometimes too personal) nothing can ever replace meeting, shaking hands, and having a conversation with somebody in real life. Look for more intimate industry events that leave time for networking. I’ve even been known to skip entire afternoons of talks to sit down and network with one person at a conference I was looking forward to meeting.

Step 6– Develop a course

What’s the biggest issue or misconception facing your industry?

Identify it and write a course that you will integrate with an autoresponder sent over 10-20 days. Here’s a breakdown of how to plan out the course:

Example of a Mindmap

To start, I suggest some brain mapping software (I use the MindNode App) or grabbing a note pad and writing it down the old fashioned way.

  • Put your topic in the middle of page and write down everything you can think of surrounding the topic. Don’t consider whether or not you want to include it at this stage, just write it all down.
  • Upon finishing, come back the next day with another blank piece of paper and copy the exact same formula.
  • When you’ve finished this 2-4 times, take all of your brain maps and create a master map out of them eliminating all the obvious dumb stuff you wrote down and keeping the good stuff.
  • Then grab some cue cards and write out each sub-topic on a cue card or in Scrivener (an awesome word processor for organising large projects like this). After you’ve organized the course on cue cards or in Scrivener, it’s a matter of filling in the blanks.

When you’ve finished writing each section, tie them all together.

Start the course with an introduction email saying hello and telling the person what to expect. At the beginning of each email refer back to the previous lesson for a line or two. At the end of each email, let the person know what they can expect for the next email.

Go to fiverr.com and get a cover created for your course and integrate with your email marketing software. Create a simple squeeze page for your course — this will be important in the next step.

Step 7 – Build up a fanpage for social proof

You’ve probably already created a fan page on Facebook, but now it’s time to get it cranking and, to do so, you’re going to get a brief lesson in Facebook advertising.

Create a Facebook status update with a link to your squeeze page for the course. Keep it short and include the following 3 things:

1. Have a punchy headline that grabs attention.

2. Give 3 points that are secrets or that you “reveal” in your course.

3. Tell the reader to click the link to grab their course right away and provide the link.

Then you need to target your Facebook ad.

Step 1: Identify your audience. Is it 25-30 year old females who workout and are interested in holistic fitness? Be as specific as you can.

Step 2: Identify any other pages on Facebook that specifically serve your audience. Be as precise as possible.

Step 3: Think about parallel industries that your lead may be interested in. For example, somebody interested in holistic fitness is probably interested in Lululemon clothing and Yoga. Identify the main pages here.

Step 4: For $10-$25 you can run an ad promoting your post to each of these pages individually, for at least 3 days. After creating your first ad, you can copy the ad and simply change the targeting. You should see the option in your control panel.

Step 5: Take stock of which pages gave you the best response rate in terms of click-throughs . Write down all pages that had at least a 0.3% click through rate.

Step 6: Run an ad to all of the pages that had a good response together and run that ad continuously for more money.

Bidding for clicks is a bit of a science. The better you target your ad, the less you’ll have to pay. Reason being, if you have a high converting ad then Facebook will show it to more people for cheaper.

If your ad isn’t converting well, you’ll have to pay more per click to get Facebook to show it to people. If you’re targeting a big audience or a big page, clicks will cost more than an audience in countries outside of North America interested in oddball stuff. Ideally, you want to pay no more than 25 cents a click.

This ad will both get people to like your Facebook page and add a slew of new subscribers into your email list.

Step 8 – Viral!

This is where my real interest lies.

Now that your Facebook ads have gotten a following on your page, you have an avid audience to spread your materials — so make them viral.

The easiest way to get status updates to spread throughout a niche industry audience is by following these steps:

  1. Write down any issues or misconceptions that face your industry. For example, in the fitness industry the fact that too much of the public still thinks that women shouldn’t lift weights is a sore spot.
  2. Note beside your topic, which side of the debate the majority of your audience sits on.
  3. Write a status update or upload a picture 4-6 times a day (you can schedule them) that articulates the majority of your communities views on the issues you’ve identified. Don’t be afraid to be one-sided and somewhat brash. Emotion drives sharing. People will share if they love you or hate you.

Step 8 – Post 1-2 times per week

Post 1-2 top quality blog posts on your webpage per week (or even less). You can write them or have contributors write them. Continue to spend the majority of your time growing the community through your email list via the course and through Facebook through ads and viral material.

Take in guest contributions on your own blog so that you can spend your time writing awesome material for other blogs in your niche creating link juice and getting traffic back to your site.

Rinse and Repeat.

It won’t happen overnight but when you plan your strategy and dedicate the time, you can turn your blog into a community.

Jonathan Goodman likes Turtles… and Deadlifts. He’s a 2x author and explores the psychology of social media over at Viralnomics. Oh, and he’s on Twitter too.

 

The Secret to Using Your Blog to Generate Sales

This is a guest contribution from Karl Staib of Domino Connection.

You’ve probably been at a party where some fool is talking his face off at everyone he meets. He talks about his trip to Spain and how he is such an amazing photographer. He never asks, “What you do or what interests you?” He just blathers on and on about himself.

On a good day I silently chuckle at this guy’s lack of social common sense. On a bad day I snap and scream, “PLEASE listen to me for just 10 seconds!”

When all you do is talk about yourself, you send people running in the other direction. If you don’t care about other people they for sure won’t care about you.

This was how the old school way of marketing worked. Megaphone style.

Image by nem_youth

Many of you might not think of your blog as a business and I understand, but one day you might want to create a ebook, product or use your blog to leverage a new career. When you improve your engagement your blog it becomes a tool to help you level up your life and career.

Spray and Pray

Back in the day, companies used to spray and pray. They sprayed their message in as many places as possible (magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, etc) and prayed that they picked the right advertising spots. Larger companies could afford to pay for market research, so they were able to make sure most of their efforts paid off.

Smaller companies didn’t have this luxury. Straight out of college, I worked in the marketing department for a high pressure valve company. They grossed about 10 million a year in sales. Not too shabby, but nothing compared to the bigger players in the industry.

We had to carefully choose our national magazines and our marketing company told us who read the magazines and which ones we needed to advertise in. We had to believe them. We had nothing else to go on.

This style of marketing has been turned upside down due to blogging and social media. Every business has the opportunity to measure their engagement on their website, email and social media accounts. The problem with all these new tools is we have the wrong attitude toward them. Companies are afraid to be transparent and engage with their customers.

Why? Because it’s hard work.

Truly Listen

Mr. Blather Lips, from the introduction, had a great time at every party he went to because he didn’t have to gauge people’s emotions. He just blathered on until he found someone to listen or it was time to go home.

Now businesses actually have to listen to their customers because if they don’t, a social media storm comes crashing down upon them. Just ask Netflix if they wished they had a better plan for when they doubled their prices.

Listening to your readers isn’t just for dealing with social media storms. It’s also so you can anticipate them and avoid them before they even happen. Now, every business has the opportunity to do market research. You can ask specific customers if they would be willing to fill out an online survey. You can ask them direct questions on your blog or social media that help you figure out what they want from you.

You don’t have to guess what you think people need. You can ask them directly and find out. You can even include them in the process of creating your product.

Invitation to Join In 

Threadless created their million dollar t-shirt company from this idea. They have people send in t-shirt designs, have the users vote on which designs they would like to buy and print only the most popular ones. They already have a built in audience for their t-shirts. It’s a win-win for everyone.

The company prints the most popular, making some good cash and the buyers get a limited edition t-shirt that they are proud to wear. Even the winning t-shirt designs are helpful to the designers. They can add this accomplishment to their resume.

You probably knew that engaging your ideal people was wise, but now what?

Now you have to go out and find them and start a conversation, but before you do you need to find out where you can connect with them.

  1. Write a description of the ideal client for your product

You have to ask yourself some specific questions to help you gain clarity:

      • What does she look like?
      • What motivates her?
      • What does she do for fun?
      • What are her career goals?
      • Where does she hang out? (Facebook, conferences, Twitter, etc.)
      • How do you engage with her? (light banter, philosophically, monetarily, etc.)

The hard part is making the mental switch from talker to engager.

I’m not just talking about being a better listener. That’s a good start, but to engage with people you have to be listening and asking great questions. It’s part art and part science.

If you want an example of someone who understands her community then visit Mayi Carles to see how she is creating content that engages and builds trust. You’ll notice that she creates content around branding and business building. All a perfect target market for her.

Engage Your Readers

Ask

Image used with permission

If you want to engage your readers, start by asking questions to show them how much you care about their success. Ask them:

  1. What topics they would like you to cover?
  2. What products you could create to help them?
  3. How you can improve your services?

By keeping the focus on your readers you’ll improve engagement, find new ways you can help them and use your blog to grow your influence.

You will also learn the type of language they use. It’s this copywriting trick that you need to use to engage your ideal readers.

Using the language they use in the copy on your sales page will increase your conversion rate. It’s that simple.

For example, let’s say Problogger gets a lot of questions on how to create content for their blog. His ideal people might not reference the word “copy” they might use the word “write” or “blog”. If this is the case then the key to writing a great sales page is to insert these words into the page so they feel comfortable with the sales copy.

Your Turn 

How have you learned to increase your visitor’s engagement on your blog? (Please share in the comment section.)

Check out Karl Staib of Domino Connection and his e-course “How to Create an Amazing Product Launch,” You can also click here to download the Domino Connection sales page checklist for free so you can create a compelling sales page that converts potential customers into buyers.

11 Quick Tips for Writing Compelling Posts On Your Blog

Yesterday I ran a workshop for a small group of bloggers here in Australia. One of the sessions I covered was on writing compelling content.

Here’s a brief look at a few of the recurring themes in what I shared:

  1. Be Useful – if your post isn’t informing, inspiring, entertaining or making someone’s life better – don’t publish it until it does.
  2. Share your Opinionopinions are often what sets bloggers apart from the pack.
  3. Cut out the Fluff – before you hit publish, revise your post and remove anything that doesn’t add value.
  4. Visualise Your Reader – writing with a reader in mind personalises your writing.
  5. Make Your Posts Scannable – only 16% of people read every word online. Format your posts so that your main points stand out.
  6. Work and Rework You Headlines – a good headline can be the difference between a blog post being read, or ignored.
  7. Write with Passion – when you show you care about what you’re writing, your readers are more likely to care too.
  8. Give your Readers something to do Nextask your readers to DO something once they finish reading. It could be to read something else, comment, apply a lesson, share the post etc.
  9. Tell Storiesstories are powerful ways of connecting with, inspiring and teaching your readers – they also create memories
  10. Give Your Posts Visual Appeal – the inclusion of an eye-catching image or a well designed diagram can take your post to the next level.
  11. Practise – the best way to improve your writing is to write. Practise Makes Perfect.

Is Making Money from Blogging Passive Income?

Recently, I attended an event and heard a speaker talk about how they’d build a passive income from blogging. The person sitting next to me leant over toward me and at whispered:

“Based on your Twitter Stream, I’m not so sure that blogging is ‘passive’ – is it?”

I thought it might be an interesting discussion to re-open here on ProBlogger – do you think that income earned from blogging could be classified as ‘passive income’?

Wikipedia defines ‘passive income’ as:

Passive income is an income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it.

Wikipedia also goes on to define it from a tax perspective, which I’m won’t get into here. I’m more interested talking about the ‘with little effort required to maintain it’ aspect of the definition, which I think is what many people are attracted to when they hear anyone talk about ‘passive income’.

Relaxed Person Hangs Flip Flops Out The Car Window

Let me kick off the discussion by making a few comments:

Most Bloggers Making a Living from Blogging, Work Hard

This has been a recurring theme here on ProBlogger, since I started the blog in 2004. While there’s no single way to make a living from blogging, most full time bloggers I know – who blog as their primary income stream - work pretty hard on their blogs.

They:

  • Post content on a daily basis
  • Spend a significant amount of effort to maintain the community around their blogs
  • Work hard on promoting their blogs and finding new readers
  • Build relationships with other bloggers
  • Work hard to maintain their income streams (whether that be by liaising and working with advertisers or developing and launching products)
  • Also work on any number of other tasks including SEO, maintaining social media accounts, answering emails, moderating comments, blog design, racing other blogs, managing hosting etc

Some full time bloggers have grown to the point where they are able to outsource some of the above – but then there’s the task of managing a team!

Income from blogging is neither quick or easy. In short, if you expect to earn an income from your blog, you need to consistently put time and effort into it.

Some Aspects of Blogging Will Generate Passive Income

Having just said that blogging for income takes a significant amount of work, there are some elements of blogging that could be said to generate ‘passive income’. Let’s look at a few examples:

There’s Gold in Those Archives

Each post I publish could potentially generate an income for me, on the day it’s published but also tomorrow, next week, and next month. Even years into the future.

Example 1 – when I dig into my Google Analytics account and drill down into the AdSense stats there, I see that last month my post ‘Aperture‘ on dPS earned me $233.23 and this Wedding Photography Tips post earned $222.61.

Those posts were published in 2007, five and a half years ago!

Example 2 – when I look at my Amazon Affiliate earnings, I can see that my Popular Digital Camera and Gear post generated $60 yesterday for me. That post has been up since 2009 and while I do update it from time to time, it has been over 2 months since I reviewed it.

Of course, part of the reason those old posts continue to generate income for me is because I continue to publish new content on the site. Alongside the new content, the posts in my archives have the potential to earn income for years to come (if all goes well).

You could argue that a blogger who spends years doing all of the above could then completely stop doing any work and still make some income based upon continued traffic from search engines. However, that traffic (and the income from it) would decrease in time without you maintaining your blog (depending a little on how evergreen the content of your blog might be).

The Long Tail of Products

In a similar manner, when you develop a product to sell to your readers that product can continue to generate an income for you into the future, without needing continual development.

Example – when I first wrote and released 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, it took significant work to get ready to be published. There was the time I put into creating the content, the editing, the design, the setting up of shopping carts, the marketing etc.

In return for that effort the eBook produced a good income when it launch during the launch period.

However, it has continued to sell almost every day since then. I did a full update of the eBook and added new content in 2012 but other than that, the 31DBBB continues to sell (as do our other eBooks) thanks to it being promoted in our sidebar/navigation areas and through annual discount promotions we’ve run.

This is the beauty of creating something to sell for your readership, particularly if it’s evergreen and doesn’t date.

Is Making Money from Blogging Passive Income?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic – do you see the income you earn from blogging as ‘passive income’?

On Hamburgers and Hooks: How to Effortlessly FIND (Not Write) Your Compelling First Line

This is a guest contribution from Kelly Diels-Rostant.

Hamburger

Image courtesy of Suat Eman FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Where’s The Beef?” asked the lil’ ol’ lady and in so doing launched her late-blooming acting career.

It was 1984. Clare Peller was eighty-four years old. It was her first acting gig and it was a hit. Her Wendy’s spot spawned a series of follow-up commercials, launched a slew of licensing and merchandising deals (t-shirts, coffee mugs, beach towels, oh my!), and became an instant cultural catch-phrase.

It may even have turned the tide of a presidential primary. In a televised debate, listening to presidential hopeful Gary Hart talk about his “new ideas”, rival Walter F. Mondale leaned forward and said, “When I hear your new ideas, I’m reminded of that ad, ‘Where’s the beef?’”.

Mondale, not Hart, won the democratic nomination. That’s the power of a pithy, provocative phrase. A hook. The beef. And your blog post has got to have it.

So let me tell you where your blog post beef is: it’s the best, most quotable line of your piece, and I promise you it’s already there.

Really, it’s there. You already wrote it. It’s just in the wrong place.

But first, a little background.

The most quotable line of your blog post could – and should – be the first line. The hook. Hook your readers.

In conventional newspaper journalism, the first line of the piece is the entire piece: Who. What. When. Were. Maybe even how and why. All in one line. The way if the reader stops reading right there after the first line (bad reader! lazy reader!), she still got everything she needed to know.

Which means she can stop reading, yes?

NO.

Is that what you want your blog readers to do? Stop reading after the first line?

So that’s instructive. To write effective, compelling, must-read blog posts, accept the dramatic imperative of classical journalism and hook your reader with the first sentence. Then abandon the methodology – do NOT spill the who, what, where, when or how. At least not yet.

Write hooks, instead, which means don’t give it all away the first line. In fact, don’t lead with any context at all. Context can come later, in the second pararaph, or even later, in the second section of your post.

Because the more provocative, mysterious and insensible the first line, the better the hook. Your reader has to keep reading to figure it out.

Mwahahaha.

That was my evil bloggess laugh. It’s genetic. For example, remarking upon my progeny – one of whom is the incomparable, six year old Lola whose first viewing of 101 Dalmatians provoked her to confide, I really like that evil girl [Cruella DeVille], I like her style Amanda Farough once said, “She’s only one bad science experiment away from becoming an evil genius.”

True dat.

I digress. Sort of. But like any good villainess/bloggess, I do have a signature, sneaky trick in reserve.

It’s a guide to finding your blog post hook in one step.

Notice I said hook finding, not hook writing.

IMPORTANT: I want you to avoid performance anxiety – I mean writer’s block – because so far, there’s no little blue pill for that. Alas. Because if I sit down and try to write The Best First Line Ever, a hot-and-sexy hook, I won’t be able to get my writerly mojo up…so lo, the page will remain blank. Unloved.

But.

If I just write and write and write until I’m finished (I call this Draft Zero because it’s the utterly unselfconscious and necessary blathering that precedes what writer Anne Lamott calls The Shitty First Draft) and then go back and ask,

Where’s The Beef?

AKA

Where’s the Quote?

Then and only then can I get it on. That’s when I’ll find it: the great line I’ve already written. The hook.

And you can, too.

So, when you’re hook-finding, ask yourself this:

Where’s the beef? If you were a reader, what line would tickle, stroke or slap you? Where’s the leap-frogging, cart-wheeling, caterwauling sentence that demands to be known? Where’s the wisdom? Where’s the beef? The quote? Doncha wanna give good quote?

Yes, you do – and if you can’t find a few foundational, architectural phrases that transform your piece from sentences laid end-to-end into “arcades and domes”, then your Draft Zero work is not done.

But if you seek, you will find them: arcadian, majestic, domestic lines of genius already embedded in your blog post. They’re there because you let yourself write them.

Yep, it’s true: there are gorgeous phrases and stunning sentences already in your blog post just waiting to be relocated to where they really belong.

And one of them is your hook. It’s already there, you already wrote it, you just have to find it.

That’s why this exercise is called Hook Finding, not Hook Writing.

So that’s all you have to do.

Flow, write, finish, realize you’re not finished (editing is 90% of real writing), ask yourself, where’s the quote?, and voila! there’s your hook. Cut ‘n paste to the first line -

        which will, inevitably suggest a new narrative arc and the direction for subsequent editing, hallelujah!

 - then revise your piece to support and amplify your new hook, answer the hook in the last line…

…and just like that, you’ll have a hook AND a cohesive, compelling, must-read blog post.

So that’s how you find your blog post’s hook and then use your hook to tie it all together. Tie it up.

Some people like it like that.

Like, your reader.

The one who was hooked. The one who read your piece right through to the end.

And like the hamburger-eating public. Asking Where’s the Beef? increased Wendy’s annual revenue by 31%. One stunning phrase in the right place – a television commercial, a presidential campaign, the first line of a blog post – can change everything.

So please sally forth right now and find your hook. Yum.

—————

The Moral of the Story in Four Short Tweetables*:

  1. Asking yourself “Where’s The Beef?” works for burgers AND blog posts. (click to tweet)

  2. The more provocative, mysterious and insensible the first line, the better the hook. (click to tweet)

  3. “She’s only one bad science experiment away from becoming an evil genius.” (click to tweet)

  4. Hook Finding 101: Write; reread your work; ask yourself, “Where’s The Quote?”; and voila! Hook, found. (click to tweet)

*Wanna know how I wrote these tweets? I didn’t. I found them already written in my post. Yup, hook-finding works for crafting Tweetables, too.

Kelly Diels-Rostant is the evil villainess/writer-for-hire responsible for Cleavage.

How to Create a Blog Purpose Statement in 3 Simple Steps

Yesterday, I shared a series of questions to help those bloggers seeking a little clarity when it comes to what their blog could be about.

Today, I wanted to share 3 more questions – these are not so much focused upon YOU as a blogger but upon your readers.

Hopefully they’ll also help you achieve a little clarity.

  1. Who are your readers?
  2. What do they need?
  3. How will they change as a result of reading your blog?

Answer these 3 questions and you will actually have a pretty good purpose statement for your blog.

You could certainly go into some real depth on each question but even doing it at a low-level will be helpful.

For example on dPS I would answer the questions as:

My readers are camera owners (who they are) who are not using their cameras to their potential (their need). Reading dPS will help them to gain creative control over their cameras (the benefit).

I shared these questions on my Google+ account a few weeks ago. Yesterday, I received an email from a blogger who set aside 15 minutes to answer them. She told me that in doing so she realised that she’d created a purpose statement for her blog which she also turned into a tagline for her blog.

Give it a go and let us know how you answer the questions in comments below.

7 Questions to Ask Yourself to Bring Clarity to Your Blogging

Do you feel like you’ve lost clarity around what it is that you’re trying to do with your blog?

I’ve recently bumped into a few bloggers grappling with this idea. Some were new,  even ‘Pre’ Bloggers, while a couple had been blogging for a while but had lost some direction.

Out of these conversations, I put together a set of questions to help them think it through.

The questions revolve around asking:

What are YOU About?YOU

While I won’t guarantee you instant clarity on answering these questions I hope that putting a little time aside to work through them might help – please let me know if they do!

  1. What interests do you have?
  2. What experiences (good and bad) have you had?
  3. What expertise and skills do you have?
  4. What are your passions?
  5. What gives you energy?
  6. What do you talk a lot about to friends?
  7. If you could write about anything – what would it be?

7 Steps to Proofreading Like a Pro

This is a guest contribution by Charles Cuninghame, website copywriter and owner of Text-Centric.

I’m sure we can all agree that proofreading is the least fun part of blogging. But while it may be tedious, it’s well worth the effort.

Typos are not only embarrassing, they can also cost you money.

In a widely reported study in 2011, British entrepreneur Charles Duncombe found a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half! If you don’t have a product, then you could be missing out a blog subscriber or repeat visitor!

A man shocked at your lack of proofreading!

Here’s a tried and tested proofreading process that I’ve taught to many novice writers with great success. Once you get the hang of it, you should be able to thoroughly proofread an average length blog post in 5-10 minutes.

What you’ll need:

  1. A printer
  2. A red pen
  3. A highlighter pen

Step 1: Set it aside

Time permitting, set your blog post aside for a while before you proofread it. An hour is good, a day is better. The more time you put between the writing and proofreading, the more refreshed you’ll be and better able to spot any typos.

Step 2: Print it out

Research has shown that proofreading on-screen is not as effective as proofreading a printout. So do yourself a favour and print your post out. But run it through the spell checker first, to fix any obvious spelling mistakes.

Step 3: Mark up your changes

Get ready by minimising distractions. Proofreading requires your undivided attention. So turn off your phone, close your email and switch off the music.

Read through your post marking up typos and rough spots with your red pen as you go. Force yourself to slow down and concentrate. Focus on each word and character as you read.

Make your mark-ups obvious so you don’t overlook them at the corrections stage. Punctuation marks (commas, apostrophes, full-stops/periods, etc.) are particularly easy to miss. So it’s a good idea to circle the mark-up for extra emphasis.

It’s also a good idea to put a cross in the margin next to a line that contains a correction.

Step 4: Read out loud

Once you’re been through your blog post once, read it aloud. Reading aloud helps in two ways. Firstly, your ears will often catch mistakes that your eyes miss. Reading aloud forces a higher level of concentration than silent reading.

And secondly, reading out loud helps you to write conversationally. If your post sounds clunky when you speak it, you need to revise it until it sounds confidently conversational.

Step 5: Double-check details

There are some details that are particularly embarrassing or troublesome to get wrong. So you should double-check the following:

  • The spelling of people’s names e.g. is it Janine or Jenean? Stuart or Stewart?
  • Ditto brand names e.g. is it Word press, WordPress or Word Press?
  • Telephone numbers and email addresses
  • Prices
  • Click links to make sure they go where you want them to.

Step 6: Make corrections

Make all your corrections in one go, not as you find them. Be very careful as you make changes. You don’t want to add in errors at this stage. Be especially careful with any sections you’ve rewritten. If you’ve rewritten a significant portion of your post it’s best to print it out and proof it again.

A common mistake is missing corrections you’ve marked up on your printout. So as you make each change mark it off your printout with your highlighter. When you’ve finished making changes, go over your printout to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Step 7: Final check

As a final check, run the spell checker over your corrected post. Read it on-screen to make sure it looks OK. Break up any paragraphs that are longer than 5 lines. Now you’re good to hit the publish button!

Charles Cuninghame is a website copywriter and the author of the Website Content Cheat-Sheet. For important documents he usually hires a proofreader.

Are You Balancing Emerging Technology with Effective Strategy?

Last week I was asked at a conference to reflect upon the future of digital and among other things I made a reflection that seemed to resonate with those gathered. It was:

Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

As online publishers we see a steady stream of articles being written about new and future technologies, companies and trends in the online publishing space.

It is certainly an exciting time to be doing what we’re doing with such amazing development happening all around us and some amazing projections being made about what is ahead of us – however in the midst of all this development it is easy to overlook some of the most effective ‘old’ technologies and trends that we also have at our finger tips.

The reality is that while many new and future technologies are exciting and promising the world – that many of them are still either untested or not yet reaching their potential.

The example I used last week was to compare the effectiveness of social media against email in my own blogging.

On Digital Photography School we have

  • around 300,000 social media connections (mainly Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest)
  • around 300,000 RSS subscribers
  • around 700,000 email subscriber

Last week we

  • updated our social media accounts around 150 times over the week
  • published 14 new posts to our blog (and RSS feed)
  • sent a single email to our email list

Which was the most effective for us in terms of driving traffic?

Hands down it was the email we sent. I’d estimate that last week the single email generated well over 10 times the traffic that the 150 social media updates and the 14 RSS updates combined.

Our previous testing also shows that when we launch a new eBook that a short series of emails will generate over 90% of our sales of our eBooks over launch even though we promote it to social media numerous times during the launch too.

By no means is social media a waste of our time – it helps with multiple objectives that we have (it does drive some traffic, builds community/engagement, helps with branding, drives some sales) but my point is that an old technology like email still has an exceptional return on investment in our situation.

I will continue to invest time, energy and resources into developing a social media strategy – however not at the expense of ‘old’ media that is a tried and true strategy.

What about you – have you got the balance between the ‘new’ and the ‘old’ right? I would love to hear how you approach it?